When can the Bulls pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo in free agency?

Alex Caruso, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Alex Caruso, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

The last time the Chicago Bulls had a true MVP-level player on the roster, they won 62 games and posted the best record in the NBA, advanced to the Conference Finals, and very likely would have won a championship if not for the fact they ran into one of the two greatest players to ever play the game in the midst of his athletic prime.

Of course, that all took place in 2011, when a Derrick Rose-led squad ran head-first into three Hall of Fame talents in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh during their first year together in the ‘Heatles’ era. Since the Bulls never tasted glory then — or at any point in the 21st century — it makes sense why recent comments made by Giannis Antetokounmpo would spark a lot of debate amongst the fanbase.

Giannis riled Bulls fans up in an interview last week on The Sports Zone when mentioning the possibility of playing in Chicago later down the road. While he did reaffirm his commitment to Milwaukee, this was enough to have a starved fanbase practically foaming at the mouth.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has hinted at an interest in possibly joining the Chicago Bulls in the future.

Here’s what Antetokounmpo had to say when asked about playing for a city like Chicago.

"“It’s a no-brainer, everybody would love to play for Chicago. Down the line, you never know. Maybe I play for Chicago but right now I am committed to Milwaukee.”"

Imagining Giannis on the Bulls is indeed an enticing thought, but whether or not he’d actually be attainable is a debate worth having. After signing a massive $228 million extension back in 2020 — the largest deal in NBA history at the time — there’s no chance the Bucks even entertain the thought of trading him away.

Even if Milwaukee was open to the idea, any deal for Giannis would absolutely gut the roster and render the trade pointless, much like we’re currently witnessing with Kevin Durant’s unfolding trade negotiations and dramatics. That means the best route to acquiring Giannis will ultimately be when he hits unrestricted free agency.

Although he has a $52 million player option for the 2025-26 season, it’s expected that he’ll opt out (barring any career-derailing injuries) to secure an even larger deal in the summer of 2025. That means the Bulls would have to keep their future payroll very financially flexible to even have an outside shot at bringing the superstar to the Windy City.

If we look ahead to the 2025 offseason, things are quite open-ended for the Chicago Bulls right now. In fact, only one player even has guaranteed money on the books with Zach LaVine making $45 million in the last year of his deal. If the Bulls exercise Dalen Terry’s rookie two-year team option, then he’ll also be a solid asset on a team-friendly contract that summer.

Outside of those two, however, everything comes down to how Chicago spends its money in the coming years. Locking the team into burdensome contracts is a surefire way to close an already minuscule window to sign Giannis as is.

That being said, don’t think for a second that potentially signing Antetokounmpo is simply a matter of keeping the books open. If he ever tests the waters, every team in the league is going to be interested in acquiring his services. For that reason, the Bulls need to keep winning games and repairing the team’s image after over two decades of no Finals appearances (and only one trip to the Conference Finals) and GarPax leading the franchise down a dark road.

To keep winning games, Chicago is going to have to continue spending money to attract talent as they’ve already done with DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Nikola Vucevic. So far, the results speak for themselves. This is vitally important to keep in mind, as a vocal minority of the fanbase has expressed discontent with the current iteration of this team due to the notion this team cannot contend for a title.

If that much is true, it should not matter. Winning games and bringing basketball prestige back to the city should be of the utmost priority. That’s how the Bulls can sign a Giannis-type player, even if Giannis himself does not come to Chicago in 2025.

As long as that Michael Jordan statue stands tall outside of the United Center, players won’t forget the type of legacy they can have here in Chicago. It’s just up to the Bulls to field a team that inspires enough confidence to seem worth joining in the first place.

And while I don’t exactly expect Giannis Antetokounmpo to join the Chicago Bulls in 2025, 2026, or frankly ever, you can’t deny that man would look fantastic in the red and white.

dark. Next. Where are the GarPax Bulls now?